Shelby Cobra 427
Chassis no. CSX3276
•Sold new in Pennsylvania, USA
•Desirable 427ci 'side oiler' engine
•Resident in Germany since the early 1970s
•Present ownership since 2005
•Listed in the Shelby American Registry
•Original colour combination
'The Cobra was Carroll Shelby's dream car. And Carroll Shelby – and maybe only Carroll Shelby – was the person who made it happen. Granted, he came along at the right time, but he followed through. When opportunity knocks, you don't want to be outback in the outhouse.' – Richard J Kopec, 'Shelby American Guide' 1978.
Rightly regarded as one of the all-time great classic sports cars, the muscular, fire-breathing Cobra succeeded in capturing the hearts of enthusiasts like few of its contemporaries. Convinced that a market existed for an inexpensive sports car combining European chassis engineering and American V8 power, Le Mans-winning Texan racing driver Carroll Shelby concocted an unlikely alliance between AC Cars and the Ford Motor Company. The former's Ace provided the simple twin-tube chassis frame - designed by John Tojeiro - into which was persuaded one of Ford's lightweight, small-block V8s. It was discovered that the latter was lighter than the six-cylinder Ford Zephyr unit that AC was using yet with vastly greater potential. To cope with the projected power increase, the Ace chassis was strengthened with heavier gauge tubing and supplied fitted with four-wheel disc brakes. Weighing a mere 1½cwt more than a Bristol-engined Ace yet endowed with double the power and torque, the Cobra turned in a breathtaking performance, racing to 60mph in 4.4 seconds and reaching the 'ton' in under 12, exceptional figures by early 1960s standards and none too shabby even today.
The 260ci (4.2-litre) prototype first ran in January 1962, with production commencing later that year. Exclusively for the USA initially, Cobras - minus engines - were sent from England to be finished off by Shelby in California, and it was not until late in 1963 that AC Cars in Thames Ditton got around to building the first fully finished cars to European specification. After 75 cars had been built, the 289ci (4.7-litre) unit was standardised in 1963. Rack-and-pinion steering was the next major up-date; then in 1965 a new, stronger, coil-suspended chassis was introduced to accommodate Ford's 427ci (7.0-litre) V8, an engine that in race trim was capable of producing well in excess of 400bhp. Known as the 'MkIII', this new chassis had been designed by Shelby American's Bob Negstadt and AC's Allen Turner, and kept the basic layout of the Tojeiro original while featuring larger main tubes set farther apart. Wider bodywork, extended wheelarch flares, and a bigger radiator intake combined to create the definitive - and much copied - Cobra 427 look.
Testing a Cobra 427 for its December 1971 edition, The Autocar magazine found that it could accelerate from 0-100mph in 11.7 seconds, making it the quickest car to 100mph that it had tested to date. The standing quarter-mile was covered in 12.9 seconds, a full two seconds quicker than the 4.2-litre Jaguar E-Type. Only purpose-built competition cars could outrun a 427 from a standing start, while braver owners could expect to see a genuine 165mph on the speedometer (depending on axle ratio).
Keeping ahead of the competition on the racetrack had been the spur behind Shelby's adoption of the 427 engine, though some cars to 'street' specification came with Ford's less powerful 428ci hydraulic-lifter V8. Competition and semi-competition or street-competition (S/C) versions used the 427. Only 1,000-or-so Cobras of all types were built between 1962 and 1967, 316 of them the ultimate 427 version, which was sold only in the USA.
Its entry in the Shelby American Registry records that this car, chassis number 'CSX3276', was invoiced to McCafferty Ford of Trenton, New Jersey on 15th October 1966. Still unsold some five months later, the Cobra was traded with Pletcher Ford of Jenkinstown, Pennsylvania in March 1967 and later that same month was sold to its first owner, Cecil Harris of Merion, PA. The Registry entry lists various remedial works carried out while the Cobra was owned by Harris, though precisely when he sold it is not known.
By the early 1970s '3276' had been exported to Germany where it has resided ever since. Its first owner in that country sold it on to the second in 1973, while its next owner acquired the car in 1975. The Shelby American Registry notes the following: 'By the late '70s 3276 had been fitted with 7.5"x9.5" Halibrands, chrome side pipes, a chrome roll bar, a competition fuel cap and a hood (bonnet) scoop. At some point the car's twin round tail lights were replaced with earlier rectangular units.' Names of the aforementioned owners are listed are listed in the Registry.
German-registered 'E-NX4', the Cobra appeared on the front cover and within Motor Klassik magazine (November 1987 edition). In 1993 the car suffered rear-end damage (not substantial) and was repaired by AC Cars in the UK (see photographs on file). After some 30 years with the same owner, the Cobra was offered for sale in 2003 and in 2005 was purchased by the current German vendor, a well-known Cobra and Shelby connoisseur.
'3276' was featured in the April 2012 edition of Oldtimer Markt and in the limited edition book 'Cobra – The Story of an Icon' by Trevor Legate, which was released for the Cobra's 50th Anniversary in 2012. Importantly, '3276' has the rare and desirable 427ci 'side oiler' V8 engine with aluminium cylinder heads, and not the inferior 428ci unit. At the time of production, anyone wishing to race a Cobra was advised to install a 427 unit because the 428 was never intended for competition work.
Well documented and correctly detailed, '3276' is in very good condition – the interior has a wonderful patina – while all numbers, which a Cobra must have, are in the right places. This rare and charismatic Cobra 427 comes with an original manual, tonneau cover and soft-top, and boasts some of the best upgrades and accessories you could order from Shelby American. Built to the ultimate specification and possessing impeccable provenance, '3276' must be one of the best 'big block' Cobras to be offered for sale in recent times.
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